Today we continue our message series entitled “Courageous Leadership.” In this series, we’re learning how God guided Joshua in a time of intense warfare as Israel took possession of their Promised Land. As Christians today, we are in a time of intense spiritual warfare between the kingdom of God and the domain of Satan. There are many important lessons that we can learn from the book of Joshua to help us in our day and time.
Our message today is entitled “Avoid Deception.” To deceive is to cause someone to believe something that is not true, a lie or a falsehood. When one is deceived, one believes a lie. Every lie is a temptation, that when believed, leads to sin. Let me say that another way. Every time you or I believe something that is not true, a lie, every time that we are deceived, we fall into sin. That is exactly what happened in the garden of Eden. Satan, the serpent, tempted Adam and Eve to believe the lie that eating of the forbidden fruit would not lead to death, but to life. Wrong beliefs lead to wrong actions and they, believing the lie, were deceived and ate of the forbidden fruit.
Jesus speaking to the unbelieving Jewish leaders in …
John 8:44 (ESV) You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies.
Jesus makes it clear that the devil is a liar and the father of lies. He has not truth in him. Every unbeliever, including these Jews, are children of the devil and so do not believe the truth, but lies. What does this all mean for Americans today in 2020. The majority of Americans believe that they are Christians, but most are deceived.
A recent survey for Christian pollster George Barna revealed that 32% of Americans do not consider themselves Christians. Of those who consider themselves Christian, 43% are non-practicing Christians which means that they do not attend church at least once a month. Practicing Christians are only 25% and attend church and consider their faith important. Evangelical Christians who believe they are saved by faith alone and not by works are only 6% of the population. Why do I bring up these statistics? Because they reveal that most people who consider themselves Christians in America have been deceived, they are not believers. Why have so many been deceived? Jesus talks about the end times in which we are living in …
Matthew 24:10-11 (NIV2011) At that time many will turn away from the faith and will betray and hate each other, and many false prophets will appear and deceive many people.
People are being deceived by false prophets and false teachers. What is behind this false teaching?
1 Timothy 4:1 (NIV2011) The Spirit clearly says that in later times some will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons.
As we might expect, Satan is behind all such deception. Not only will he keep people from becoming believers through deception, he will also cause believers to stop believing through deception. So, we must be alert to avoid deception, we must learn to better discern the difference between truth and falsehood. One of the gifts of the spirit, available to those baptized in the Holy Spirit is the gift of discerning of spirits. This gift gives you the ability to discern whether someone is speaking by the Holy Spirit or by a deceiving demonic spirit. We build our ability to discern the truth through studying God’s Word, prayer and listening to sound biblical teaching. The current of our society is moving toward more and more deception and falsehood in every area of life. As believers and as a church, we must stand with and promote God’s truth in every area of life because God speaks to every area of life. Today, we’re going to look at a little known story in the life of Joshua to learn how to avoid deception in our own lives.
Joshua 9:3-4 (ESV) But when the inhabitants of Gibeon heard what Joshua had done to Jericho and to Ai, they on their part acted with cunning and went and made ready provisions and took worn-out sacks for their donkeys, and wineskins, worn-out and torn and mended,
Joshua had defeated the cities of Jericho and Ai as they entered the Promised Land. The other nations of the area had heard of it and joined together to attack Israel. The people of Gibeon decided to do something different in order to prevent themselves from being destroyed. Rather than a frontal attack on Israel, they made a plan to deceive Joshua and the Israelites.
The Gibeonites knew that Joshua was only going to conquer nations within the land of Canaan. Those outside of Canaan, the Promised Land, wouldn’t be bothered if they did not attack Israel. So, the Gibeonites made plans to deceive Joshua by appearing as though they were from a far distant country. All of their provisions were chosen to give the impression that they had come on a very long journey from a distant country.
Joshua 9:6-7 (ESV) And they went to Joshua in the camp at Gilgal and said to him and to the men of Israel, “We have come from a distant country, so now make a covenant with us.” But the men of Israel said to the Hivites, “Perhaps you live among us; then how can we make a covenant with you?”
Upon reaching Joshua and the nation of Israel, camped at Gilgal, they asked to make a covenant with them. The covenant would be a covenant of peace where both sides would pledge to not attack one another. The men of Israel questioned them about where they came from. They knew that the Lord had commanded them to not make any treaties with the people of the Promised Land. The command of the Lord was to destroy and drive out the inhabitants of the land. The deception of the Gibeonites continued.
Joshua 9:12 (ESV) Here is our bread. It was still warm when we took it from our houses as our food for the journey on the day we set out to come to you, but now, behold, it is dry and crumbly.
Not only were their clothes appearing to be worn out from the long journey, even their food showed the evidence of coming from a distant land. Everything the Gibeonites were saying appeared to be backed up by what the Israelites saw of them. The stage had been set for Joshua and the Israelites to be deceived.
Who was behind the Gibeonite deception? It was Satan himself, seeking to cause the Israelites to disobey the command of the Lord by allowing themselves to be deceived. In the same way, Satan seeks to deceive both unbelievers and believers today in many ways. How does Satan deceive people? Most of his deception is done through people who spread his lies.
Never before in the history of our nation have so many lies and untruth been spread in so many ways. The lies of Satan are spread through schools and universities, through millions of websites on the internet, through news and entertainment, through celebrities, politicians, false pastors and sometimes through our friends and even relatives. Part of fallen human nature is to assume that if enough people are saying something it must be right. As we believe small lies, the stage is set for believing bigger lies and the downward spiral continues. We must be alert to the deception all around us and not be blinded by it.
Joshua 9:14-15 (ESV) So the men took some of their provisions, but did not ask counsel from the LORD. And Joshua made peace with them and made a covenant with them, to let them live, and the leaders of the congregation swore to them.
In these verses, we see why Joshua was deceived. It was the same reason for the defeat at Ai. Joshua and the leaders of Israel did not seek counsel from the Lord. They relied on their human wisdom and the things they had seen and heard. Unfortunately, human wisdom is fallible and often leads to the wrong conclusions. Joshua believed the words of the Gibeonites. Thinking they were from a far country, they made a peace treaty with them. Well, it didn’t take long for the lie to made known.
Joshua 9:16 (ESV) At the end of three days after they had made a covenant with them, they heard that they were their neighbors and that they lived among them.
Just three days later, the information came to them that the Gibeonites did not come from a far country, but were their neighbors and lived nearby. By believing the deception of the Gibeonites, Joshua had sinned by making a treaty with them, contrary to God’s command. So, we see that the deception had occurred because Joshua had relied on human wisdom rather than seeking God’s wisdom. This all was part of Satan’s plot to destroy Israel, which he ultimately was able to almost carry out. Now Joshua was in a dilemma. They had sinned by making a covenant. Yet, God’s law was that covenants made must be kept. What should they do?
Joshua 9:20-21 (ESV) This we will do to them: let them live, lest wrath be upon us, because of the oath that we swore to them.” And the leaders said to them, “Let them live.” So they became cutters of wood and drawers of water for all the congregation …
The decision, a right decision I believe, was made to keep their covenant with the Gibeonites. The alternative would have been to attack them, even though they had made a covenant to not attack. They reasoned that if they broke the covenant, God’s wrath would come upon them. So, they spared the Gibeonites and made them servants to Israel to cut their wood and bring them water. We mustn’t rely on human wisdom when making decisions.
Now all of us are deceived in different ways at different times, just as Joshua was. The best way to avoid deception is to relay on God’s guidance, which we’ll talk about in our next point. But what do we do if we are deceived? The problem with deception is that we may not be aware of having been deceived. Especially if many people around us are deceived in the same way.
Be skeptical of the crowd, what everyone else is saying around you. The crowd is usually wrong in these days on many issues. Be very skeptical of new ideas that supposedly are better than the old-fashioned ways that are written within the Bible. For example, more and more people who claim to be Christians feel no need to be part of a church family. In direct contradiction to what the Bible teaches. More and more people who claim to be Christians feel that it is wrong for believers to seek to help others be saved. And there are many other similar examples, both in the practice of our faith and the beliefs of our faith. God’s Word doesn’t change, mustn’t rely on human wisdom but …
Joshua 10:5-6 (ESV) Then the five kings of the Amorites … gathered their forces and went up with all their armies and encamped against Gibeon and made war against it. And the men of Gibeon sent to Joshua … saying, “Do not relax your hand from your servants. Come up to us quickly and save us …
All the armies in the neighboring areas allied together and chose to attack Gibeon because they had made a treaty with Israel. What should Joshua do? If the Canaanites destroyed Gibeon, they would be annihilated as the Lord had commanded. Yet, Joshua had made a covenant with Gibeon, not only to be at peace with them, but to defend them. And covenants were not to be broken. Joshua seeks the Lord and the Lord gives direction to Israel.
Joshua 10:8, 10 (ESV) And the LORD said to Joshua, “Do not fear them, for I have given them into your hands. Not a man of them shall stand before you.” And the LORD threw them into a panic before Israel, who struck them with a great blow at Gibeon …
The army attacking Gibeon was an alliance of many cities and was far greater than anything that Joshua had ever encountered. So, the Lord tells Joshua not to fear, because he was tempted to be afraid. The Lord was going to defeat this enemy alliance. As Israel attacked them, the Lord fought for Israel and threw them into a panic. The Lord even rained down large hailstones that killed many of the enemy. Finally, the Lord even caused miraculous changes in the sun and the moon.
Joshua 10:13-14 (ESV) And the sun stood still, and the moon stopped, until the nation took vengeance on their enemies. … There has been no day like it before or since, when the LORD heeded the voice of a man, for the LORD fought for Israel.
Joshua and Israel needed daylight to finish the job of defeating the massive army arrayed against them. In a way that we don’t understand, the sun stood still and the daylight continued until the victory of Israel was complete. There is no scientific explanation for this event, it was a supernatural miracle and I believe what the Bible says about it. As Joshua and Israel relied on God’s guidance, the victory was achieved against overwhelming odds.
One of the great aspects of this story is that even though Joshua was deceived, that was not the end of the story. He had gotten himself and Israel into another pickle by not seeking God’s guidance. Yet, God gave him a way forward to deal with the Gibeonites. Then God gave him a supernatural victory over an immense army determined to wipe the people of God out. In the same way, God is with us, when we are deceived and fall into temptation. God is always there to forgive when we repent and get us back on track with Him. The same is true of people around us, including believers and unbelievers who have been deceived. Our instruction is to speak the truth in love so that they can escape the devil’s deception. In fact, that is the essence of evangelism or outreach. Doing our part to speak the truth about Jesus to those who have been deceived into believing lies about Him. As we rely on God’s guidance, He will help us avoid deception.
Today, we’ve learned about avoiding deception from an example in Joshua’s life. It is easy to be blinded by deception and make bad decisions. Behind every deception are the lies of our enemy Satan. Whenever we believe one of his lies, we are set up to fall into temptation. We must learn not to rely on human wisdom in making decisions. We must be careful to not just follow the crowd, even if the crowd claims to be Christian. We must rely on God’s guidance more and more. In these last days in which we live, deception is going to increase. Only as we grow in understanding God’s Word, being guided by His Spirit and listening to Spirit-anointed teaching can we avoid deception. Not only are we to avoid deception, but God desires for us to speak His truth in love. As we do, we will help others escape deception and come into the truth of Jesus Christ.